Erwin Elephant Revival Festival remembers Mary the elephant

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ERWIN, TN (WJHL) – Erwin is looking to move on from a historical event that happened nearly 100 years ago.

In Sept. 1916, an abused circus elephant named Mary was hung in Erwin after she killed her trainer in a parade. Fast forward nearly 100 years later, the professional group Rise Erwin came up with the idea for the Erwin Elephant Revival.

The city is looking forward to a week of celebrations that honor Mary’s life and makes the world a better place for elephants in captivity right here in Tennessee.

Rise Erwin member, Ben McNabb said it’s time to turn this around. “A very sad story. Why not take something that’s history, let’s try to make a positive out of a negative,” he said.

The week of celebrations include a scavenger hunt, a play and even a parade.

All the proceeds from the Erwin Elephant Revival Festival will go towards an elephant sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN so that captive elephants can have better lives.

Rise Erwin member, Tyler Engle said it’s more than a festival for Erwin.

“It’s very important for Erwin as an economic driver to get people into town and let them see the beauty of our community,” Engle said.

News Channel 11’s Justin Soto spoke with two Unicoi County High School seniors who are working on the play, and they said it’s time to clear the air.

“You’re from the town that hung an elephant and we really want to clear up the confusion there,” Matthew Szucs said.

The play will include all of the key characters from the time, the Sparks Circus and Red Eldridge the elephant trainer, bringing 1916 to 2016.

“We want to rename Erwin, not as the town that hung an elephant but a town that cares about elephants and animals,” Lindsey Lung said.

Jaclyn Edwards, an Erwin resident, joined in on today’s scavenger hunt and she said her hometown has a big heart.

“Everybody in Erwin will gather around you, they will love you whole heartedly. You’re family, you’re family when you’re here,” Edwards said.

The Erwin Elephant Revival has events going on through Aug. 27. Those include a scavenger hunt, an antique car trunk show, and the play “Mary’s Story: A Hundred Years Later” by the Unicoi County High School drama department. For more information call 423-220-7624.Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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